In more shocking revelations in the Rafale scam, French news portal Mediapart has reported that Dassault, the manufacturer of the now infamous Rafale jets that are at the heart of this controversy, paid Indian officials bribes to the tune of a whopping 7.5 million Euros (approximately Rs 650 crores)! But what is even more shocking is that though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had access to documentary evidence in the form of fake invoices used for the purpose of paying bribes, it failed to investigate these kickbacks!
The Rs 59,000 crore Rafale scam revolves around the purchase of 36 allegedly overpriced jets. Mediapart has published the false invoices that were allegedly used by Dassault to pay the bribes and claimed, “Yet despite the existence of these documents, the Indian federal police have decided not to pursue the affair and have not begun an investigation.”
It says, “Mediapart can reveal that detectives from India’s federal police force, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), and colleagues from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which fights money laundering, have had proof since October 2018 that French aviation firm Dassault paid at least 7.5 million euros (equivalent to just under 650 million rupees) in secret commissions to middleman Sushen Gupta. This was in the context of the French firm’s long and ultimately successful attempt to secure a 7.8 billion-euro-deal in 2016 to sell 36 of its Rafale fighters to India.”
According to the report, the evidence surfaced during an investigation into the Agusta-Westland case that involved overpriced choppers for use by VVIPs. Sushen Gupta’s name first popped up in connection with the Augusta-Westland case and later in connection with the Rafale deal.
“In the helicopter deal, middleman Sushen Gupta received secret commissions from AgustaWestland via a letterbox or shell company registered in Mauritius, Interstellar Technologies Ltd. The Mauritian authorities agreed to send India’s Central Bureau of Investigations and Enforcement Directorate numerous documents relating to this company, including contracts, invoices and bank statements. This was how Indian detectives discovered that Sushen Gupta had also acted as an intermediary for Dassault Aviation over the Rafale deal,” reveals Mediapart.
Mediapart reveals that his Interstellar Technologies billed the French firm for IT services between 2007 to 2012, around the time when the bidding process was on. It was these false invoices of clearly overpriced services that enabled the payment of bribes. Another shell company Interdev, fronted by another member of Gupta’s family, was also involved.
Now, this is where an interesting distinction emerges. Though the bribes were paid in a period when the UPA government was in power, Mediapart says, “Whereas the complaint filed on October 4, 2018, targets suspicious activity that took place from 2015, when the deal was being finalised on the authority of the current BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
In April this year, Mediapart had claimed that Gupta, who has been chargesheeted by the ED in the Augusta-Westland case, had supplied classified documents about the Indian negotiating team to Dassault. Dassault and the Ministry of Defence have repeatedly denied all allegations of corruption.
The Supreme Court first shot down a plea for a monitored probe in 2018. Then, in May 2019, petitioners Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan filed review petitions against the December 2018 judgment in the case in light of new revelations that show that the government had made inaccurate/false submissions before the court. But the Center objected to the admissibility of new documents saying they had been stolen/illegally obtained and also that this was tantamount to a violation of the Official Secrets Act. In November 2019, the SC also rejected the review petitions.